A few weeks ago I wrote about the glories of Uber Jump Bike Sharing in Rome, only to find out shortly thereafter that the service would be ending. Uber Jump was sold to Lime, so all the Uber Jump bikes have been taken off the streets, and will be rebranded and rereleased in cities all over Europe. You can read more about the sale here.
In the meantime, the mayor has been gleefully posting on Facebook about electric scooter sharing in Rome. Four companies have introduced fleets over the past few weeks – Lime, Helbiz, Dott and Bird.
Although slightly terrified, I decided to test out a Lime electric scooter with my sweetheart so that I could review it.
Lucky for you, we were stopped by the cops for breaking the rules of the road, so I have all kinds of insider info about what NOT to do when using an electric scooter sharing service in Rome, too!
Read on for all the details.
Table of Contents
A guide to electric scooter sharing in Rome (with Lime)
Download the Lime app
I went with Lime because I’m planning on using the electric bikes again as soon as they’re available, so I need the app for that anyway. I’ve also seen more Lime scooters in my neighborhood than the others.
Enter your payment info or choose a plan
Lime has some good plans available. If you think you’ll use the electric scooters a lot, I’d say to go for one.
You can get a day pass for €9.99, or a monthly plan that allows you to ride for 30 minutes for a flat rate. 8 rides is €19.99/month, 25 rides is €44.99/month, 50 rides is €79.99, or you can get a pass 100-ride pass for €149.99 that lasts for three months.
You can also purchase an “unlock pass,” for €2.99, which is valid for seven days. It covers the unlocking fee of €1, so it’s only worth it if you’re planning on taking three or more rides in a week.
How much does a single ride cost on a Lime scooter?
For a single ride, in addition to the €1 unlocking fee, the cost is €0.25/minute.
Find a scooter
The zones for electric Lime scooters are small. We had to walk for ten minutes to find two.
Scan the QR code
The QR code is located left side of the handlebars. Once the scooter is unlocked, put up the kickstand, and you’re ready to go.
Operating the electric scooter
Just like any other scooter, you have to get going a bit by pushing off with one foot. Once you’ve picked up some speed, you can use the “GO” toggle on the right of the handlebars to really take off. Be careful, because if you push the toggle too far too fast, you can jerk forward.
I HIGHLY recommend going somewhere quiet without much traffic to practice and get a feel for the thing (ideally where no one can see you because
I looked like an idiot you may be slightly unbalanced at first).
What’s the speed limit for electric scooters?
According to this article in La Repubblica, the speed limit for electric scooters is 25 km/hour on the roadway, and 6 km/hr in a pedestrian area.
At one point, we were on a traffic-free stretch and I pushed the toggle as far as I was comfortable, which ended up being 13 km/hr. We were on a slight incline, so I’m sure it’s possible to go faster, but even 13 km/hr felt too fast for me.
What are the required safety measures?
You must be 14 or older to use an electric scooter. Helmets are required for riders aged 14 – 18 and are highly recommended for all riders. A reflector vest must be worn after sunset and during the night.
All scooters must have front and rear lights.
Although to me this seems pretty obvious, you can only have one person on a scooter at a time. They cannot be used to transport goods or animals either.
Again, all of this information is from this article from La Repubblica (in Italian). Check for updates to these rules/laws before riding, because they can change.
How long does the battery last?
The battery gets depleted quickly, or at least it seemed to do so for me. If I had known this, I would have taken a scooter that had a higher charge than mine, which was only at 25% when I unlocked it. By the end of my ride I was getting a BIG RED X, indicating that the battery was about to die. Not a comforting sight when scooting down a busy street.
The rules of the road for electric scooters
Like I said above, we got stopped by the cops. We had just come off a stretch of bike path on Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, which leads to a big, chaotic intersection. We did what we would have done with bikes, and what two cyclists did in front of us, and rode through the intersection at the crosswalk.
When we got to the other side, two cops came out of their little hut (what’s that thing called?) and stepped in front of us.
We were informed that electric scooters are considered vehicles, which means they are NOT to be ridden through a crosswalk, or on a sidewalk. You can step off and WALK them if you want to use a crosswalk or turn one around on the sidewalk or something like that.
“Basically,” the cop said, “treat it like it’s a motorino.”
I read up on the rules when I got home, and it appears that the electric scooters do indeed follow the rules of the road for motorini, however, they are allowed on bike paths. What I’m not 100% sure of is what to do when you come across a bike path that’s ON A SIDEWALK, like many of them are in Rome. I’m still wondering about this, although I’d imagine that you’re allowed to ride the electric scooter on the sidewalk if there’s a section for a bike path.
Here’s some more information (in Italian – use Google translate and you should be able to get a good idea of what it says).
Ending your ride
Like the Uber Jump bikes, there are certain areas of the city where you can’t park Lime scooters. These areas are indicated in red on the map inside the app. The red zone for Lime scooters is, frankly, huge. Like I said above, we had to walk for 10 minutes to find the scooters in the first place, and then we had to walk for another 10 at the end of our ride to get to an acceptable parking area.
You had the option of leaving an Uber bike in a red zone and paying a fine, but that doesn’t appear to be possible with the Lime scooters. Another difference is that Lime asks you to upload a photo of you where you parked.
Riding an electric scooter in Rome
So, I hated my scooter ride, and I doubt I’ll use one again. I’ll explain why below, but first, let’s try and think of the bright side…
The pros of electric scooter sharing in Rome
The best thing about these scooters is that they’re eco-friendly. I’m afraid that’s all I can come up with because I mostly think they suck eggs.
The cons of electric scooter sharing in Rome
So, why did I hate riding the Lime scooter? Let me count the ways!
A city full of cobblestones + a “vehicle” that is low to the ground with no suspension = a vVeryY BbumpPyy rIIiidE. My feet ached afterwards, although that may be because I clenched them like Cinderella’s stepsister trying to wedge on a glass slipper for the entire ride because it was so rough and I was so tense.
So, as the police officer told us, you’re meant to ride the electric scooters on the road (when there’s no bike path).
Of course, you ride off to the side, between the cars and the sidewalk, because if you tried to ride down a Roman street in traffic at 13 km/hr you would most certainly become roadkill.
Guess what else is off to the side of the road?! Potholes! You can’t really weave around them either, because if you did, you’d be swerving into traffic or slamming into the curb, potentially getting killed on one side by a car, or crashing and flying into the sidewalk on the other.
Our ride, which, in fairness, lasted over 30 minutes, came to almost €10 EACH. That’s 20 EURO. We could have taken a cab there and back for the same price, and (most likely) not had a brush with death (more on that below) or the cops!
I don’t really know how to explain how I felt on the scooter, but the description would not include the words “stable” “comfortable” or “happy.” It would more likely include the words “sweating” “wobbly” and “acutely distressed”.
I think perhaps the size and color of the Lime scooters – they’re small and white – made me feel insignificant. A lot of the time, I was worried that drivers couldn’t see me, and I’m sure you could disappear in someone’s blind spot.
I also really hated the braking system on the scooter. There’s a hand brake on the left, which is not great for people with hands that are the size of mine. [Before you ask, they’re not freakishly small or anything. They’re normal sized hands for people who are 5’2″.]
There’s also a foot brake on the back tire that says “CAUTION: HOT” which made me not want to go anywhere near it. “Gently singe your foot while flying through traffic on a strip of metal! Joy of joys!” Thanks, but no thanks, Lime.
Anyway, back to how I almost croaked because of the hand brake:
On our last stretch of road, I was pretty uncomfortable after the bumps, the encounter with the cops, and the summer heat. I approached an intersection, slowed down, and then proceeded when it appeared clear.
Unfortunately, I didn’t notice a car pulling up to the intersection because there was another car parked to my right, blocking my view. When I saw the car, I grabbed for the hand brake, but since I was hot and stressed and it was already slightly out of reach for me, my hand was sweaty and it slipped – TWICE. Thank GOD the driver noticed me, slowed down, and waved me on. I was shaking afterwards and almost felt like throwing up.
Why I won’t be riding a Lime scooter again
All in all, I couldn’t wait to get off the thing. If Rome was a city that had smooth, dedicated bike paths everywhere, then I think the scooters would be great. They’re in the process of laying 150km of bike paths now, so maybe once those are completed, the scooters will be more practical.
Italian news outlets are already reporting on the problems these scooters are causing (here and here are a few examples), mostly because people aren’t riding them responsibly (i.e. they’re not wearing helmets or obeying the rules of the road). If they’re supposed to be treated the same as a motorino, then helmets should absolutely be mandatory for everyone, and clear indications of where it’s acceptable and not acceptable to ride should be available – perhaps within the app itself or on the screen of the scooter.
I read that they’re eventually planning on increasing the number of electric scooters in the city to 16,000, which I think is stupid, but I hope I’m wrong.
And I really hope they bring back the damn bikes, al più presto possibile.
***DISCLAIMER: I’ll update this post as required, but please be aware that the rules and laws regarding electric scooters might change, and you as the rider are responsible for being aware of the most current and up-to-date rules and laws and following them. You can find information on this website from the Ministero dell’Interno (it’s in Italian, but the Google translation is pretty clear).***